Taking Sides

Today’s Israeli airstrike that killed (at least) 56 people, half of them children, seems to be causing some, um, re-evaluation. Condi Rice has cancelled a trip to Beirut, for example. She was going to talk to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora about “steps” to a cease fire. It seems Prime Minister Siniora told Condi she was not welcome and could take her steps and shove ’em where the sun don’t shine.

The plan had been for Rice to leave for Beirut in an hour to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to discuss steps toward a ceasefire. Now, that trip would be cancelled. She had talked to Siniora, whom she described as “depressed” and “emotional” over what happened in the village of Qana. Rice said, “I called him and told him that I was not coming today because I felt very strongly that my work toard a ceasefire is really here, today.” Siniora, however, had made it clear in a televised address that her trip would have been pointless. He declared he would not engage in any more negotiations until a ceasefire was in place.


… the Lebanese government (of which Shrub was so paternally proud just a few short weeks ago) has just told Madame Supertanker to go take a flying you-know-what at the moon:

    Lebanon told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday that it could not meet with her before a ceasefire ends a 19-day-old Israeli offensive, Lebanese officials said. The officials said Rice, who was due in Beirut later on Sunday, was informed of the Lebanese position after an Israeli airstrike killed more than 40 civilians in south Lebanon.

And the Kofi Annan has called an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council, at which a resolution calling for an immediate cease fire no doubt will be offered, forcing the United States to veto it — thus officially going on record all by its lonesome in favor of large and horrific massacres.

Juan Cole:

Israeli war planes scored a direct hit on a building in the Shiite village of Qana where destitute farming folk, including old people, women and children, had taken refuge in the basement from Israeli bombing raids. At least 54 are dead, as bodies are pulled from the rubble. 19 children are confirmed dead and another 11 are thought still to be in the basement. The Israelis say they had pamphleted the region demanding that all civilians leave, and high Israeli officials have openly said that anyone who remains is fair game (low civilianity index, and maybe low humanianity index, too). The Israelis don’t say, however, how desperately poor hardscrabble farmers including the aged and infirm and children are supposed to travel to Beirut over the roads and bridges that the Israelis have bombed out, and on what they are supposed to live when they get there.

The Israelis had launched 80 air raids on the village of Qana overnight, with large numbers of buildings flattened, according to CNN.

I boldfaced the part about aged and infirm and children with no way out, because according to Victor Davis Hanson these people wanted to be bombed. I suspect otherwise. A number of trolls have dropped by here today saying that Israel has been oh, so careful not to hurt civilians, and those who remain in areas they’d been warned to vacate have only themselves to blame if they get killed. But every news story I’ve seen about Lebanon in print and electronic media has noted that infrastructure — roads, bridges, airports — have been destroyed, and people are having a hell of a time getting anywhere.

According to the New York Times:

Israel said residents in Qana and the region had been warned several days in advance to leave the village.

Today, Mr. Siniora said Qana’s residents were not warned. He described a scene in the region illustrating the difficulties for civilian evacuations, saying the Israeli strikes had cut “the whole country into pieces,” destroyed bridges and blanketed the village with 50 airstrikes at night. …

… “What we have really been witnessing is something beyond description. And this is something that is unacceptable, and that’s why we are asking for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire,” he said.

“We cannot continue discussing under the sort of blood that is being put on our necks,” Mr. Siniora added.

How did the White House respond, by the way?

Responding to the strikes on Qana, the White House urged Israel today to take more care to avoid civilian casualties in Lebanon. It said that Ms. Rice was working to arrange the conditions for a “sustainable” halt to the violence.

Yeah, that’s tellin’ ’em.

And now, back to Travels With Condi

Rice and her team had already been working with the knowledge that Israel was not going to cease its attacks soon. The night before, she had had dinner with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who told her that Israel needed 10 days to two weeks to complete its military operations. The attack on Qana — apparently the site of rocket launches against Israel — occured shortly after midnight.

On Sunday, a few hours after Rice’s press conference, more bad news arrived when U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that the Israeli Defense Ministry had asked U.N. peacekeeping forces in Lebanon to evacuate two more villages before sunset, suggesting they would meet Qana’s fate. By Sunday evening, Rice had apparently decided that she had done all she could do in Jerusalem and made it known she was heading back to Washington Monday morning.

Well, well.

Via Talking Points Memo, we learn that Siniora has expressed “gratitude” to Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah. This reveals, seems to me, that Hezbollah’s political position in Lebanon has been strengthened by Israeli bombs.

In other developments, the bombing at Qana caused King Abdullah II of Jordan to condemn Israel’s “criminal aggression.”

Abdullah condemned “the ugly crime perpetrated by Israeli forces in Qana, which led to the killing of innocent civilians, including a large number of children and women,” said a statement released by the king’s press office.

“This criminal aggression constitutes a blatant violation of the law and all international conventions,” the king said.

Abdullah repeated his call for an “immediate cease-fire.”

This is significant, because Jordan’s King Abdullah is possibly the most pro-western ruler in the Middle East. My understanding is that he has closer ties to the U.S. than he does to Syria and Iran. Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel back in 1994, and has kept that agreement. But the King has a Palestinian problem of his own. About half of the population of Jordan are Palestinians. Many of these Palestinians are refugees (or children of refugees) from earlier Palestinian-Israeli conflicts. The King of Jordan does not want more Palestinian refugees, because a Palestinian majority could lead to the overthrow of his rule. Nor does the King want Palestinians already living in Jordan to decide he is an enemy of the Palestinians. If forced to choose sides between Israel and Lebanon, I ‘spect the King would choose Lebanon. And it may become hard for him to remain too openly friendly with the United States as well.

Conclusion: War is stupid.

I called this post “Taking Sides” because it shows how extreme actions can force people to take sides they’d rather not take. Right now, the entire world, including Britain, is lining up on one side, and the U.S. and Israel are on the other side. This ought to be making us nervous.

A number of the trolls commenting on yesterday’s “wankers” post have jumped to the conclusion that this blogger is pro-Hezbollah, which is extremely far off the mark. Simple-minded people think there are just two sides to every issue, and if you are not on this side you must be on that one. But there are other sides they don’t see.

Beside the fact that it breaks my heart to see Lebanon being torn apart, my sympathies are with the children, the families, the noncombatants, of all nations, religions, and ethnicities who are being slaughtered and traumatized by Israeli bombs and Hezbollah rockets. My antipathies are against everyone who is making and supporting war, especially war going beyond what is needed for self-defense — again, of all nations, religions and ethnicities.

See also: “U.S. Intelligence on Hizballah and Iran“; “The day Israel realised that this was a real war“; “Watching Beirut Die.”

17 thoughts on “Taking Sides

  1. You hit it on the nose about Jordan. Was in that country last month to meet with Iraqis — and came away very concerned about what the flood of Iraqi refugees might be doing on top of the existing large Palestinian population. (Sixty five percent actually. The good news is that they can choose to have Jordanian citizenship, so it is not as if they are all stuck in camps, though some are.) The Jordanian treaty with Israel is VERY unpopular; people say it helped Israel a lot but didn’t deliver the promised economic benefits to Jordanians. Hear there were big demonstrations in Amman today. The King controls the country, but there are limits beyond which his government cannot adopt an unpopular stance. The Qana 2 massacre is going to strain those limits.

  2. Conclusion: War is stupid.
    I’d go further. War is the stupidest organized behaviour humans engage in. (Runner-up: genocide)

    Cheerleading for war is high up on my scale of evils as well. It is possible to support a war as the least evil choice in a range of choices, but if you’re wrong, you’re advocating a greater evil.
    Uncritical cheerleading is not the same as support for the least evil choice.

    Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” recommended.

  3. The newspaper The Star reports that Israel has called a cease fire for 48 hour while it investigates the event at Qana

  4. This policy of collective punishment seems no more effective in Lebannon than it has proven to be in Iraq. Nor did the collective punishment exacted on September 11th. Hatred is winning these wars just as it always does.
    Who are these people? Over and over I ask myself, who are these people who think the appropriate response to having a soldier killed is to murder toddlers. How did they come to power. Why are they not in an asylum somewhere they cannot teach our children to be murderers.

  5. Heard Dubya on NPR mumbling and stumbling and struggling to string together 3 or 4 coherent words off-the-cuff about the regrettable deaths of innocent civilians. Then that troglodyte Bolton huffed and puffed about how it was Hezbollah’s fault for using the civilians as shields (this without any investigation or even initial reports from on the ground). And still I bet the Bushies are thinking, “Phew, another 2 weeks’ news cycles diverted from Iraq.” I think my anti-hypertension meds have stopped working altogether.

  6. P.S. I was curious about comment #3 above so I checked out the only newspaper called “The Star” that I know, the Toronto Star. The AP wire reports that Israel is suspending “aerial activity over Lebanon” for 48 hours. Not a true cease fire, but at least they seem to realize they’ve fucked up.

  7. “My understanding is that he [Jordan’s King Abdullah] has closer ties to the U.S. than he does to Syria and Iran.”

    This is like saying that my thumb has a closer connection to my hand than it does to the dark side of the moon. The Hashemite dynasty is a CIA front operation — nothing less and nothing more.

  8. Thanks for your continued posting on this crime Maha, I hope the email I sent you about “watching Beruit Die” prompted you to include it in your post. My computer skills are lacking, as you most likely have noticed, so I’m at a loss on how to include articles in my comments, I’ll continue to send you interesting stuff any way I can. There are some nasty photos of Lebanese victims of this crime available on the net, they are indeed terrible, victims of cluster bombs and white phosporus munitions.
    Thanks again…

  9. Gee…

    The bomb-chuckin’ Israeli’s tole them folk to leave. If’m they din’t have no way to leave as they were:

    Poor people without personal transportation…

    Had no place to go…

    Were afraid to leave everything they’d spent their lives accumulating…

    Why hell-fire boy they were warned warn’t they!

    That makes it OK to blow their ass up.

    Any similarity between the actions of the good, god-fearing folk of Israel and those of Amurkkkans who stood by and watched ‘folks’ drown in New Orleans is purely a artifact the fact that you folks on this here blog are liburuls and thus do not love Amerikkka.

    Say, where was Mr. Bush during all this?

    Playing geetar I wonder?

    Wishing Slimeball McCain a Happy Birthday! I reckon.

    Seems like there is only one thing to do…

    Impeach him!

  10. The Hashemite dynasty is a CIA front operation — nothing less and nothing more.
    Reliable source for this? I’m finding a lot of fevered stuff but nothing that looks trustable. (It’s not in the CIA factbook entry. 🙂

  11. They’re screaming…”America did this!”. I can’t say I disagree with them..The probability that the bombs that killed these children where from the rush shipment of laser guided bombs America just sent to Israel is great. And if not that, then Bush’s insistence that the Lebanese people be terrorized completely before he would move to seek a cease fire… I guess Carla Fay Tucker isn’t the only recipient of Bush hardened heart to the pleas of mercy.

    I just don’t get it..How do you kill 50+ innocent people( mostly children) and then claim it’s somebody else’s fault? The same depravity that inhabits the White House is thriving in Israel also.

  12. Kudos to Maha for a good post. There are 2 points she made that are particularly correct. First, there ARE more than 2 sides to this, and 2) she abhors the loss of life on BOTH sides. (I won’t waste my breath commenting on the brain-dead cheerleaders for bloodshed. )

    I am following the news closely for a bilateral cease-fire. However angry you may be at Israel for their heavy-handed tactics, they are reacting to Hizbollah massing on the border with thousands of rockets. Consider these assertions of mine:

    1) Israel wants those rockets and troops moved back.
    2) Israel does not want to occupy Lebanon long-term.
    3) The Lebanese governement is NOT up to the task of moving Hizbollah back.

    IMHO,there is an opportunity for diplomacy, if the ‘world’ will pool their resources to set up a buffer zone with troops – not observers. Any hope for peace must be hung on keeping the combatants apart, then working over decades to change attitudes on both sides.

  13. Doug.. That is Israel’s plan from the get- go. They want to drive out the civilian population thru terrorism and create a no-man’s land buffer( on Lebanese territory) where the cost of maintaining the buffer would be borne by the United Nations. They’re going to try to hold the world hostage through a campaign of terror… the wheel that squeaks the loudest gets the grease? This whole atrocity didn’t spontaneously combust with the kidnapping and killing of Israeli soldiers.. The plan was already in the works( like our invasion of Iraq) and Hezbollah mistakenly provided the pretext to launch the plan.

  14. Comments 3 & 7 –

    The news is reporting that the “48-hour cease fire is a result of Condi Rice bringing this to the table during her visit. Yeah!

    Bush prances her out to go over there for an hour or less to resolve the matter. What a joke and waste of fuel. It’s a dog and pony act.

  15. Here’s a sobering bit of information..


    I really need to express my pride in the generosity of the United States. Giving is a virtue that provides a reward greater than itself. I’ve alway strived to inculcate a spirit of giving in my children with the idea that of all the blessing, giving will return unto them manifold and provide a lifetime of treasured fufillment.
    Our government’s financial giving to Israel for military purposes stands as a testament to this viture.

    Taking sides? I think we have.

    God Bless America….and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

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